||Regulations issued under the royal imprimatur, Louis, by the grace of God king of France (Louis, par la grace de Dieu). The ordinances in the text are numbered no. 15,425 through 15,495. The subject matter of this set of regulations is the organization of the consitoires, official organization of the Jewish congregations in France established in 1808.
Consistory (Consistoire) is a term borrowed from Protestant usage by the Napoleonic administration to designate the committees of rabbis and laymen responsible for the administration of the Jewish congregations at the regional and national levels. By extension, the word applies to the whole organization subject to the authority of the "consistory." he French Revolution abolished the existing internal structure of the Jewish communities. The adherence of a Jew to his communal organization then became voluntary, and created problems for the Jewish leadership, mainly concerning communal budget. In consequence, the reforms introduced by Napoleon I were welcomed by some of the Jewish leaders in the hope that they would confer on Judaism a legal status similar to that given to the Catholic Church by the Concordat of 1801 and to the Protestants by the "organic articles" of 1802. The emperor himself was anxious to have an instrument at his disposal through which he could effectively supervise the Jewish community and at the same time integrate the Jews as individuals within French society. The statute establishing a Jewish religious organization was drafted at the Assembly of Jewish Notables by the commissioners appointed by Napoleon in conjunction with the nine Jewish delegates. It was finally ratified by the Assembly on Dec. 9 and 10, 1806, although not without some opposition, and promulgated by imperial decree on March 17, 1808. The decree provided that a central consistory was to be set up in Paris to head a group of regional consistories, which in their turn would control the local communities. A subsequent decree was issued on Dec. 13, 1808, establishing the location and jurisdiction of 13 regional consistories, to include also the Rhineland and northern Italy, then part of the French Empire. For every department with a Jewish population of at least 2,000 a consistory was established. Departments having less than this number might be combined with others. In the case of Paris the consistory controlled 16 departments. The central consistory comprised three grands-rabbins and two laymen, appointed by co-option, and the regional consistories one grand rabbin and three laymen. They were elected by 25 "notables" of the area who were designated by the members and confirmed in office by the local prefects. All nominations were subject to the approval of the government. Each head of a Jewish family was obliged to pay dues to the consistories. The budget was intended to cover the expenses of the Jewish religion in the narrow sense, i.e., the salaries of the rabbis and the maintenance of synagogues and their appurtenances. Welfare and educational activities were not included in the regular budget. The function of the consistories, according to the decree of 1808, was "to ensure that no assembly for prayers should be formed without express authorization, to encourage the Jews in the exercise of useful professions and refer to the authorities those who do not have an acknowledged means of livelihood, and to inform the authorities each year of the number of Jewish conscripts in the area." All those who wished to remain Jews had to register with the consistory. The duty of the rabbis was "to teach religions and the doctrines included in the decisions of the Great Sanhedrin , to call for … obedience to the laws, especially … those related to the defense of the fatherland … and in particular, every year, at the time of conscription, to induce the Jews to consider their military service as a sacred duty" in the performance of which they were exempted from any religious observances with which it could not be reconciled. The Jewish leaders generally accepted these regulations, which restored authority to the Jewish communities and also – an innovation in Western and Central Europe – gave them a centralized organization on the national scale. The consistories appointed a "commissioner" for each congregation whose absolute and often petty-minded authority replaced the traditional authority of the parnasim and who often clashed with the rabbis. Later, however, the system was dropped and thus the old communal organization continued to exist.